Florida sheriff forbids deputies from wearing masks in most situations

Marion County, Florida Sheriff Billy Woods has ordered his sheriffs not to wear masks while on duty except in a few specific situations, defying a county-wide mask order that he has already said his department will not enforce. 

“My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn,” Woods said in an August 11 email to employees.

The email also said residents entering the sheriff’s department office will be asked to take their masks off or leave, The Hill reported.

“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t,” Woods said in the email.

Exceptions to the rule

Deputies working at the courthouse, jail, hospitals or while in close proximity to someone suspected of having COVID-19 may wear masks under the department rules, Woods said, instructing them to take the mask off when they have to give an order or instructions to someone.

If anyone questions a deputy’s decision not to wear a mask, Woods said they should “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff,” and walk away.

“From that point on it will be my burden and responsibility to take care of the person and answer their problem, complaint or their question,” Woods said.

Ocala City Council passed a mask order for the city, in which the sheriff’s office is located, but Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn (R) vetoed the order. Council is meeting again this week to decide whether to attempt to override the mayor’s veto.

No statewide mask mandate in Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) encourages mask-wearing, but has not followed other states with large coronavirus case spikes in requiring their use statewide. Some Democrat-controlled counties have required masks, however.

Florida has come down from record-high numbers of positive test results in the last two weeks, but still had 5,887 new cases and 276 deaths on Tuesday, The Hill reported.

Marion County has a record-high 13 deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday, but Woods said in his letter that the county’s infection rate was proof that “the current way we are approaching the issue is working.”

The continuing debate over whether masks slow or stop the transmission of the virus has seen those who don’t favor mask-wearing to be the minority nationwide, but I’m not sure banning masks is a good idea either. Whatever happened to letting people choose for themselves?

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